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New Folk Music Project To Debut At Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

The British Council launches Folk Nations, a three-year project that will include collaborations between Indian and UK-based artists

Rolling Stone India Feb 07, 2013
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Soumik Datta

Seated at a café in Glasgow, 30-year-old bagpiper and composer Ross Ainslie tells us how it’s cool to be a folk musician right now. “It wasn’t so cool when I was in school,” says Ainslie, who like most musicians in Scotland plays in more than one band including the 13-member Treacherous Orchestra and the piping duo comprising Jarlath Henderson, a gifted vocalist and musician. It was not too long ago, in 2012, that Assamese vocalist Angaraag Papon Mahanta launched his debut album The Story So Far and remarked how the tide had turned for him: “It’s great for me that folk music has suddenly become so cool.” Not only has British folk music gained a wider appeal with younger audiences with the likes of Mumford & Sons snagging Grammy nominations two years in a row since 2012, but Indian artists such as The Raghu Dixit Project from Bengaluru, Papon & The East India Company from Delhi and Avial from Kerala have been reinventing folk music for contemporary audiences in the country since 2007. There couldn’t be a more appropriate time to connect the dots and The British Council of India, which first supported folk music collaborations involving Brit vocalist Laura Marling, this year’s Grammy-nominated Brit folkies Mumford & Sons and Rajasthan-based Dharohar Project in 2009, spotlights the genre with its three-year project, Folk Nations.

Ross Ainslie

The ongoing Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai will serve as the first stage for Folk Nations with artists from across the UK and India including Ainslie, sarod player Soumik Datta from London, Welsh pop act Trwbadour, fiddle player Patsy Reid from Perthshire, Scotland and tabla player Arif Khan based in Kolkata. How do classical musicians fit into folk you’d ask, but when we recently watched Datta work the sarod with the swagger of a rockstar at Scotland’s annual folk music festival, Celtic Connections 2013, we realized that he has the ability to inspire a generation of young musicians to reinterpret traditional music. “Certain themes keep recurring in folk,” says Datta, “And every generation has something new to add to it.” Datta also toured India this January with Circle of Sound, his collaborative project with Austrian drummer Bernhard Schimpelsberge

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In 2011, The British Council in association with Sony Music India’s folk music label Folktronic, organized Troikala ”“ a collaboration between Scottish singer Rachel Sermanni and Papon. In 2012, Bengaluru folk rock singer Raghu Dixit jammed with Brit folk act Bellowhead, winners of this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for Best Album for Broadside. While Dixit has hinted that Bellowhead may also make it to his upcoming second album due for release this year, there’s a bigger collaboration lined up for both artists in 2013. Says Tasneem Vahanvaty, head of music and  business development at The British Council of India when asked why she’d turned the focus to folk, “Our country has a rich and abundant folk music tradition and I realize how little our younger audiences in India are aware of them when I travel to international festivals like Celtic Connections and see folk being celebrated on the big stage. Folk Nations is an attempt to leave behind a legacy by showcasing folk musicians across countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the UK.” The KGAF showcase will be followed by a folk music residency in Kolkata this month. The week-long residency boasts of a line-up from across the border and UK featuring Scottish fiddler Reid, Newcastle-based clawhammer banjo player Dan Walsh, harpist Georgia Ruth Williams from Wales, Brit singer Hannah James, sarangi player and vocalist Suhail Yusuf Khan from Delhi fusion group Advaita, Bengali folk singer Saurav Moni, singer Syed Waqeel Ahad and dhol player Shafique Mia both from Bangladesh, and vocalist Shahid Hamid and sitar player Turab Ali Hasmi from Pakistan.

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Catch performances and collaborations by Patsy Reid, Soumik Datta, Ross Ainslie and Arif Khan at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival as part of Folk Nations on February 8th. Starting at 7.15 pm. Entry: Free. Go here  for the full music schedule at KGAF.







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